Quora: Biggest Career Mistakes and Lessons Learned

Successful careers are often built off of lessons learned, but it’s hard to believe business moguls like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have ever faced a career slip-up. We turn to the Quora community to see what others have to say about their biggest career mistakes.

lessons learned

(Photo Credit: laughlin/Flickr)

Question: What has been your biggest career mistake?

Question originally posted on Quora by Careers.

Jules Cheung, visual designer, states that her biggest regret in her career was, “Staying too long at a job and not growing professionally.” It’s easy to get caught up in the “something is better than nothing” mentality when it comes to employment; however, staying at a dead-end job will only end up in wasted time, wasted energy, and regret. As Cheung suggests, it’s better to leave behind a job that is unfulfilling to begin the career path of your dreams, even if that means you have to start from zero again.

As Andrew Rendall reminds us, following a career that others have chosen for you when you were an adolescent is a huge mistake. Older generations, mainly parents and grandparents, seem to think that they “know what’s best for you,” and they end up dictating and influencing what colleges, majors, and jobs you end up pursuing. However, the only person who really knows what’s best for you is ... YOU! Family, friends, and mentors will definitely be influential in your life, however, always remember to follow your dreams, not someone else’s.

Eric Lauritzen, says that his biggest career mistake (and regret) was “choosing a career based on earning potential and prestige rather than fulfillment,” while stating that, although learning the skills for his trade was a blast, he didn’t find much fulfillment in the day-to-day of being an electronics technician because “nothing ever breaks on Monday morning -- it always breaks on Friday afternoon.” Lauritzen was fortunate enough to find satisfaction in his career by dabbling in other unrelated professions like firefighting and aviation.

If you find little to no enjoyment in your career and can’t just up and quit tomorrow, force yourself to find joy somewhere in your day-to-day work, whether that means getting more involved in your employer’s philanthropic contributions, or something as small as fitting in a 30-minute workout on your lunch break. Do whatever it takes to get you closer to finding happiness and fulfillment in your everyday life.

Tierra Filhiol, founder of SmartHer Marketing and “Mom-trepreneur,” is guilty of committing one of the most common career mistakes -- comparing her career path to those of other people with completely divergent backgrounds. As mentioned earlier, everyone has different passions, motivations, and objectives in life, so there’s little benefit or worth in comparing your success to someone else’s. 

Too many people get caught up in comparing themselves to their counterparts or others within their professions, not taking into consideration that everyone comes from a different situation. Rather than making your career about what others have accomplished, focus your efforts on creating a fulfilling life with a healthy network of professionals who believe in and support what you’re doing, and vice versa. You never know what someone else’s circumstances are, good or bad, so don’t get in the habit of comparing yourself to others, because it will only hold you back from pursuing your dreams.

Take advice from the wise members of Quora: pursuing a career that is fulfilling is always greater than pursuing a career for any other reason. Also, remember that there's a big difference between using other people's successes as motivation and comparing them to your own and making your career a never-ending competition. Realign your focus with what makes you happy, or else you'll find yourself retired and having to start from scratch again.

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What other career mistakes do you have to add to the list? Share your story on Twitter or in the comments section below. 

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